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Breakdowns: Portrait of the Artist as a Young %@&*!

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The creator of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Maus explores the comics form...and how it formed him! This book opens with Portrait of the Artist as a Young %@&*!, creating vignettes of the people, events, and comics that shaped Art Spiegelman. It traces the artist's evolution from a MAD-comics obsessed boy in Rego Park, Queens, to a neurotic adult examining the effect of The creator of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Maus explores the comics form...and how it formed him! This book opens with Portrait of the Artist as a Young %@&*!, creating vignettes of the people, events, and comics that shaped Art Spiegelman. It traces the artist's evolution from a MAD-comics obsessed boy in Rego Park, Queens, to a neurotic adult examining the effect of his parents' memories of Auschwitz on his own son. The second part presents a facsimile of Breakdowns, the long-sought after collection of the artist's comics of the 1970s, the book that triggers these memories. Breakdowns established the mode of formally sophisticated comics that transformed the medium, and includes the prototype of Maus, cubist experiments, an essay on humor, and the definitive genre-twisting pulp story "Ace Hole-Midget Detective." Pulling all this together is an illustrated essay that looks back at the sixties as the artist pushes sixty, and explains the obsessions that brought these works into being. Poignant, funny, complex, and innovative, Breakdowns alters the terms of what can be accomplished in a memoir.


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The creator of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Maus explores the comics form...and how it formed him! This book opens with Portrait of the Artist as a Young %@&*!, creating vignettes of the people, events, and comics that shaped Art Spiegelman. It traces the artist's evolution from a MAD-comics obsessed boy in Rego Park, Queens, to a neurotic adult examining the effect of The creator of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Maus explores the comics form...and how it formed him! This book opens with Portrait of the Artist as a Young %@&*!, creating vignettes of the people, events, and comics that shaped Art Spiegelman. It traces the artist's evolution from a MAD-comics obsessed boy in Rego Park, Queens, to a neurotic adult examining the effect of his parents' memories of Auschwitz on his own son. The second part presents a facsimile of Breakdowns, the long-sought after collection of the artist's comics of the 1970s, the book that triggers these memories. Breakdowns established the mode of formally sophisticated comics that transformed the medium, and includes the prototype of Maus, cubist experiments, an essay on humor, and the definitive genre-twisting pulp story "Ace Hole-Midget Detective." Pulling all this together is an illustrated essay that looks back at the sixties as the artist pushes sixty, and explains the obsessions that brought these works into being. Poignant, funny, complex, and innovative, Breakdowns alters the terms of what can be accomplished in a memoir.

30 review for Breakdowns: Portrait of the Artist as a Young %@&*!

  1. 4 out of 5

    Sam Quixote

    "Breakdowns" is a reprint of the same book published in the 70s except with a brief autobiographical intro by the author. The intro features nothing new to anyone with a passing interest in artists/writers: growing up Spiegelman wasn't good at sports so he turned to the life of the mind. He was influenced by MAD magazine, R.Crumb, and Peanuts. Wow, just like everyone else who grew up to be a cartoonist then. Then onto the book itself which features short strips. One is a dry and unfunny "Breakdowns" is a reprint of the same book published in the 70s except with a brief autobiographical intro by the author. The intro features nothing new to anyone with a passing interest in artists/writers: growing up Spiegelman wasn't good at sports so he turned to the life of the mind. He was influenced by MAD magazine, R.Crumb, and Peanuts. Wow, just like everyone else who grew up to be a cartoonist then. Then onto the book itself which features short strips. One is a dry and unfunny examination of what makes a joke funny. Another deconstructs detective stories and soap operas and shows up how basic and hammy their structures are. Really? I'd never have thought of that myself. He reprints the only decent strip here "Prisoner from Hell Planet" but seeing as it was already in "Maus", the only book he's done that's worth reading, it feels like padding. The rest of the book features one page illustrations of his dreams and a few more dull tellings of his life in NY (his apartment has roaches, his work is underappreciated). The book is massive, about 2 A4 sheets side by side, but very short coming in at a brief 87 pages. Besides irrelevant and frankly boring strips that shows Spiegelman is aware of how art is created, there's nothing here of any interest. Spiegelman writes in a lofty afterword that "In 1978... there was no demand for a deluxe large format album that collected the scattered handful of short autobiographical and structurally experimental comics I'd made between 1972 and 1977 - except by me". It's 2010 now and there's still no demand. If you're as interested in Art Spiegelman as Art Spiegelman is then you'll love this book.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jason

    A terrific book that chronicles Spiegelman's coming-of-age amidst a jewish upbringing condemned to neurotic blame and guilt put on by the holocaust. it's a declaration of how he arrived to be a comic book artist, his father exclaiming "you have to use what little space you have to pack inside everything you can"...one suitcase...in case the Nazis come...to "everything you can" in a tiny graphic square. he is an experimental concept artist, exploring the implications of the frame, of making A terrific book that chronicles Spiegelman's coming-of-age amidst a jewish upbringing condemned to neurotic blame and guilt put on by the holocaust. it's a declaration of how he arrived to be a comic book artist, his father exclaiming "you have to use what little space you have to pack inside everything you can"...one suitcase...in case the Nazis come...to "everything you can" in a tiny graphic square. he is an experimental concept artist, exploring the implications of the frame, of making victims into mice, of putting Picasso and pornography in the same frame and letting a baby read Kafka as his mother contemplates suicide. He is trying to elicit a notion, concept, right. In this "breakdown" of his technique, he interfuses guiding quotes by famous authors such as Victor Shklovsky's "the purpose of art is to impart the senasation of things as they are perceived and not as they are known." and Susan Sontag's "no caption can permanently restrict or secure a picture's meaning"; these are displayed over the drawings from his comics, to implicate their true meaning, not as narrative but as stimulus of feeling, instigation. That's what he is, an in your face writer, trying to get you to think as crazy provoked as he is.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Parker Rouse

    The original three page Maus comic and Prisoner on the Hell Planet are amazing feats of comics. Prisoner on the Hell Planet has got to be one of the best comics I've read. The blown up edition of it really enhances its power outside of being an insert in the Maus graphic novel. The rest of the items in this book are basically highly meta deconstructions of the comic medium and of different aspects of storytelling. Some of them are great, others completely miss the mark. Several are just too The original three page Maus comic and Prisoner on the Hell Planet are amazing feats of comics. Prisoner on the Hell Planet has got to be one of the best comics I've read. The blown up edition of it really enhances its power outside of being an insert in the Maus graphic novel. The rest of the items in this book are basically highly meta deconstructions of the comic medium and of different aspects of storytelling. Some of them are great, others completely miss the mark. Several are just too obtuse or intellectual, seemingly for no purpose. But as I said those two comics are gems and there are several other really good pieces in here, but a lot of it seems like he was experimenting and trying to find the subject matter that he would eventually apply his experiments and deconstructions of the medium to. This of course was Maus, and this is also why those two comics I mentioned are the most successful. The introduction is also quite good, again, sometimes too obtuse, but mostly really good.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Dominick

    Well, if nothing else, this book makes clear, to those not already aware of it, what a high opinion Spiegelman has of himself. Not that it's entirely unjustified, of course; he is a master of comics technique, as is abundantly evident here. He's also an impressive stylist, capable both of striking images in his "own" style and excellent pastiche work of various figures, not to mention cunning use of collage. But he also comes across as pretty consistently impressed with himself, which is Well, if nothing else, this book makes clear, to those not already aware of it, what a high opinion Spiegelman has of himself. Not that it's entirely unjustified, of course; he is a master of comics technique, as is abundantly evident here. He's also an impressive stylist, capable both of striking images in his "own" style and excellent pastiche work of various figures, not to mention cunning use of collage. But he also comes across as pretty consistently impressed with himself, which is unseemly at best--to Canadian sensibilities, anyway. At any rate, this book reprints the late 1970s collection of a bunch of Spiegelman's underground work preceded by a comics-form memoir and followed by a prose afterward, in both of which Spiegelman traces his development as an artist. There's great cartooning in the former and lots of interesting information in the latter. Seeing the reprinted material is worthwhile as well, since most of it I'd never seen before despite some of it having a high reputation (e.g. the original 3-page "Maus," "Ace Hole"). What most of this stuff has in common is experimentation, mainly with the formal properties of comics and the tension between form and content. Spiegelman's very much a "form" guy, with relatively little interest in narrative content evident here--ironic, give his overwhelmingly greatest success is the equally experimental and formalist but nevetrtheless narratively-driven Maus. (Indeed, one of the features of the initial comics memoir is the extent to which Maus now looms over his entire career--though given that he's not really done any substantive work since then, that's hardly surprising). Even when he does tell stories they are for the most part pretty self-conscious if not overtly meta. I'm more of a content than a form guy, though, so interesting as all the self-consciousness and formal play is, for me a little of it goes a long way. I'd also forgotten, since reading it in Maus, what a whiny, self-serving thing "Prisoner of the Hell Planet" is. Telling a story in which you characterize your concentration-camp-surviving mother's suicide as an act of murder against you . . . well, I suppose it expresses Spiegelman's emotional truth, but if so, words fail me. Anyway, this is an interesting if not superlative collection--to these eyes.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    As others have discussed, “Prisoner on Hell Planet” and the original 3-page “Maus” are good. The stylistic variety is quite impressive, and I found the German Expressionist style chilling. I also found this book interesting when it came to better understanding some of the history around comics production and censorship. However, outside of these two comics, I felt like most of these strips felt like pretentious meditations on what makes art “good art” vs “bad art” and I felt like Spiegelman As others have discussed, “Prisoner on Hell Planet” and the original 3-page “Maus” are good. The stylistic variety is quite impressive, and I found the German Expressionist style chilling. I also found this book interesting when it came to better understanding some of the history around comics production and censorship. However, outside of these two comics, I felt like most of these strips felt like pretentious meditations on what makes art “good art” vs “bad art” and I felt like Spiegelman (which he even addresses in his afterward) was trying deliberately to redefine what “good art” was rather than to use subversive forms to fit the narratives he was trying to tell. A lot of the experimentation in this book didn’t feel like it did much at all to serve the purpose of the stories being told, and I ended up finishing most of these strips either confused, bored, or thinking “that was kind of sexist.” This book was disappointing given how much of an impact Maus had on me (it’s the first comic book I ever read, and the book that showed me the depth of what comics could do). Breakdowns, on the other hand, is good drawing, but most of the stories in here either rely on stereotypes that make me cringe or fall flat.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    Breakdowns was Spiegelman's first book, put out in 1977, so this is a new edition of some old material. Spiegelman, however, does a new comic book introduction which is half as long as the original Breakdowns, so there's also plenty of new material. The best strips are the original three-page "Maus" and the classic "Hell Planet" strip that appears in the more famous, novel-length version of Maus. Most of the other strips are creative and formal experiments, and stylistic exercises. They're not Breakdowns was Spiegelman's first book, put out in 1977, so this is a new edition of some old material. Spiegelman, however, does a new comic book introduction which is half as long as the original Breakdowns, so there's also plenty of new material. The best strips are the original three-page "Maus" and the classic "Hell Planet" strip that appears in the more famous, novel-length version of Maus. Most of the other strips are creative and formal experiments, and stylistic exercises. They're not engaging on a narrative level, but Spiegelman uses the medium in very impressive ways - his style is very elastic and allows him to play at noir, illustrate with a heavier, almost woodcut style, or work with Cubist images. The new introduction is largely a meditation on creativity and elements of his childhood that shaped his professional and creative life, and the introduction is probably, for me, the best part of the entire book. It's impressive, but I can see why others might not really like it.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Aurcoe

    This is a book that has completely changed my perspective not just of comics but the world altogether. I'm not raving about Art Spiegelman being a genius, which he uncontrollably is, but about the way this book has articulated his journey from one point in his life, a disillusioned artist, to another, a more self aware (even if arguably still disillusioned) artist. Breakdowns is, in every definition of the word, exactly what it means.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Robin

    I’ll say to each their own... but I found the comic strips, well, stupid. Think in terms of shock value and humorless. Or at least, that’s my take. I did manage to stick around for the author’s (very long) rambling of an afterword. Maybe I was too stuck in what I’d read in the comics, but I just didn’t care to read his life story or rationalizations for his writing “medium” as he calls it. I haven’t read his more popular work ‘Maus’ yet and I’m not sure I want to anymore.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    This was so weird and excellent. Spiegelman is even more obsessed than I am with the idea that form IS meaning, and this collection provides example after example after weirdo example of that obsession. I kind of want to teach it alongside Maus, but that very graphic blow job is probably a reason not to. Lol.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    A history of the bubble gum wrapper's cartoonist's involvement with the countercultural cartoon movement. Added bonus: whacky family history. A paean to the times, likely endearing to those who cherish comic illustration.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Thomas Mackell

    better than i thought it’d be. relatable in its tackling of mental illness/hopelessness/depression. educational in its portrayal of post-WWII life in NYC for polish immigrants and the world of comics

  12. 5 out of 5

    Esther

    Simply sublime, it’s a meta-comic with its narrative commenting on itself while unfolding each panel revealing its mechanism. And. Yet. It’s. Not. What. You. Think.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Josephus FromPlacitas

    The book is a collection of short strips, reprinting a short collection of "experimental" strips from the 1970s, with an introductory batch of new strips and an afterword giving the back story of the reprinted book. The more accessible the strips, the more I was able to enjoy them. And the more the future New Yorker editor pontificates on and scrutinizes The Meaning And Practice Of Art, the less I could feign interest. It's almost as if there is a constant war between the artist, the filmmaker, The book is a collection of short strips, reprinting a short collection of "experimental" strips from the 1970s, with an introductory batch of new strips and an afterword giving the back story of the reprinted book. The more accessible the strips, the more I was able to enjoy them. And the more the future New Yorker editor pontificates on and scrutinizes The Meaning And Practice Of Art, the less I could feign interest. It's almost as if there is a constant war between the artist, the filmmaker, the writer against their viewer or reader. The communicator wants to have something interesting to make (as Spiegelman wants to experiment with the format as heavily as he can). While the reader wants something comprehensible, clean, compelling, driven by stories she can relate to. "Prisoner on the Hell Planet," for example, is a lot more consumable than some of the pieces that must have been much more interesting to make, and, perhaps more importantly to Spiegelman, to think through. A documentary film I saw this weekend was overloaded with ponderous footage of youth from a distant country talking politics for far too long--the filmmaker clearly valued the footage she had gathered in her journey halfway around the world, but her viewers longed for the cruel knife of an editor to pare down the message to its essentials. The early 3-page version of Maus was drawn with more detail, where the final product had a much sparser line and composition. I think the later version is more compelling, even though the linework may have been less fun for Spiegelman to draw (maybe). Compare this page from the early original with any page from Maus II. Look at how much more texture there is to all the surfaces in the early one, how much more differentiated personalities the various characters have, how much more they emote. The mice in the books were virtually expressionless, with eyebrows or shaping of the eye dots being the only clue to the characters' feelings most of the time. I don't know if it was a stylistic decision to pare down the look or a labor-saving one (or maybe it was an ease-of-reproduction issue). It definitely gives a different feel to the later work, less melodramatic, the mice look more vermin-y in many scenes. Here's a bit of painful snottiness from the opening page of the original 1970s book: "A NARRATIVE is defined as 'a story.' Most definitions of STORY leave me cold. Except the one that says: 'A complete horizontal division of a building...[From Medieval Latin HISTORIA...a row of windows with pictures in them.:]' The word CARTOONS implies humorous intent...a desire to amuse and entertain. I'm not necessarily interested in entertainment...in creating diversions. Better than CARTOONS is the word DRAWINGS, or better still...DIAGRAMS." Diagrams? You want me to slog through a collection of your diagrams? Hoo boy. The purely formal experiments made my eyes glaze over, whereas the the ones that included the formal experiments within a functioning story were much more exciting. Like the "Ace Hole, Midget Detective" story, there were plenty of surreal dream scenes with Picasso waxing grandiose about art, artists, and artistry, but it took place while Ace was knocked unconscious by his foes. The philosophy was woven into the story and art, it didn't overpower it. If that makes me plebeian, so be it. Spiegelman says he wanted to mix the high with the low, but every time it got too highbrow, I stopped caring. Sometimes I think his heart is too enamored of the High for his material to ever really faithfully stoop to the Low. The pieces I liked most were the things I'd seen before, the Ace Hole story, "Prisoner on the Hell Planet," and the original Maus 3-page strip. The new intro with his childhood memories of his mother was really enjoyable, strong and looked really good. It revolved around weird squiggles she had drawn and ruminations on The Meaning of Art, but it was well grounded in real events and memories that anchor the reader. I hated things like the purely experimental "Nervous Rex: The Malpractice Suite," where cut up soap opera characters from Rex Morgan, M.D. interacted in a surreal space. Same for "Don't Get Around Much Anymore" or "As the Mind Reels," trying to wring some sort of artistic revelation out of TV soap operas, although at least they had better-looking drawing than Nervous Rex.

  14. 4 out of 5

    tENTATIVELY, cONVENIENCE

    I probably started checking out Underground Comix in the early 1970s when I was a teenager. Given that I was growing out of reading the Marvel Comics (& such-like) & Mad Magazines that had been so central to my childhood, I don't think I was really much in the mood to be impressed by any comics anymore. I reckon I had hopes that underground comics wd provide more profoundly current philosophical perspectives & I reckon that they probably did - but I still don't recall being impressed I probably started checking out Underground Comix in the early 1970s when I was a teenager. Given that I was growing out of reading the Marvel Comics (& such-like) & Mad Magazines that had been so central to my childhood, I don't think I was really much in the mood to be impressed by any comics anymore. I reckon I had hopes that underground comics wd provide more profoundly current philosophical perspectives & I reckon that they probably did - but I still don't recall being impressed enuf to acquire many. The few that I have left from that era include "Zap" & "Up from the Deep". Maybe I was just bored by 'hippie' culture: dope & sex, blah, blah - even though I was a guy w/ very long hair who eventually explored expanded (& contracted) consciousness thru drugs & who embraced sex, uh, enthusiastically. I must've found literature to provide the depth I was seeking. ANYWAY, it seems to me that it wasn't until I discovered RAW, "The Graphix Magazine for your Bomb Shelter's Coffee Table" as issue 4's subheading read, that I finally felt like I'd found what interested me. Art Spiegelman & Françoise Mouly edited this mag & the production values were.. spectacular. This might just mean that they were lucky enuf to get access to better financing than most but it seems that they also had the ideas to make the spending worthwhile. RAW is still a magazine wch has graphic variety & quality & concepts that make it highly worth referencing almost 30 yrs later. SO, it was a delight to find this collection of early Spiegelman work in this high production values large format bk in a New Paltz, NY, bkstore for a very reasonable price. Spiegelman's self-depiction as a sortof whining comics-nerd loser gets a bit tiresome but, then again, egomania wd be even worse. At any rate, the work is wonderful &, once again, Spiegelman doesn't let me down. Ironically, in the long-run, underground comics / graphic novels are usually a pretty conventional art form precisely b/c they ARE an art form & Spiegelman's very conscious of trying to get his work accepted as 'high art'. As I often say, I think people's work wd be much stronger if they threw away such frameworks entirely - but few people (or, perhaps, NO-ONE?) ever seem(s) to agree w/ me. I'm reminded of the hate that underground cartoonist Paul Mavrides had for my 1988 movie "Homeless Movies". Apparently it was too 'artsy' for him or some such. This struck me as odd given that Mavrides' own work is conventional representational narrative that is formally exactly what yer Average Joe thinks is art - & I reckon Mavrides' skills were art school honed - but I cd be wrong about that. I, on the other hand, have been rejecting being labeled an artist since 1978 & DIDN'T attend art school. I'm further reminded of my brief correspondence w/ underground cartoonist/painter Robert Williams. I sent him a "Mike Film Form Letter" wch contained individual frames of super-8 film that I'd shot of the art works that I'd made before pronouncing myself a Mad Scientist in 1978. The letter further included stories of what people had done w/ the frames of film. Williams replied w/ a sarcastic piece of hate mail railing against "dadaism". Given that the MFFL had nothing to do w/ dadaism, his response was particularly stupid. In the end, I think he just didn't like 'art' that wasn't PICTURES - a drearily conventional notion despite how wacky his pictorial content might be otherwise. Still, Williams is a very talented painter, so what the fuck.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Pascale

    A very disappointing book. I initially was thrilled to hear that Art Spiegelman, the author of legendary graphic novel “Maus,” was going to be in Portland in mid-October as part of the Powell’s Book Events series. Like many others, I paid my $5 to get in at the Bagdad Theater. Despite poor lighting in the auditorium, which, from my vantage point at the back of the room, made Spiegelman’s backlit silhouette appear vaguely ant-like as he was standing in the shadows in front of a projector screen, A very disappointing book. I initially was thrilled to hear that Art Spiegelman, the author of legendary graphic novel “Maus,” was going to be in Portland in mid-October as part of the Powell’s Book Events series. Like many others, I paid my $5 to get in at the Bagdad Theater. Despite poor lighting in the auditorium, which, from my vantage point at the back of the room, made Spiegelman’s backlit silhouette appear vaguely ant-like as he was standing in the shadows in front of a projector screen, the presentation was both instructive and entertaining. But the presentation is not what I am going to talk about here. At the end of Spiegelman’s presentation, the Powell’s Books guy-in-charge announced that there would be no signing of anything else than the new book. So I foolishly bought a copy, and the expense still came to $20 despite a 30% discount. I was disappointed to realize that the book which Spiegelman himself had derided many times in his presentation, among others, chuckling and pointing out that he’d had to beef up this reissue of a failed collection of early comics of his with both a foreword and a conclusion, contains scant readable materials. First of all, the huge oversized format doesn’t fit on any shelf. Then, aside from an absolutely great 3-page episode precursor to Maus and the 4-page “Prisoner on Hell Planet,” in which Spiegelman uses dark, depressive imagery to tell his mother’s suicide, nothing else is worth reading. Sure the drawings are okay, but the skimpy succession of images is nonsensical and meaningless. Like, say, Robert Crumb’s delirious drug-addled or sexual fantasies, with the difference that Spiegelman’s efforts are obvious, trying on styles one after the other like cheap, moth-eaten sweaters at the Goodwill, now doing the R. Crumb thing, then some Cubist stuff, then on to quasi-parodies of other comics. It may appear that this reader is just being difficult or doesn’t understand the deep currents of thought shaping comics in the decades of the last century, etc. While the argument has been made that this is a wonderful opportunity to see what was the author’s mind as he was developing his unique style, the book contents are just too skimpy to justify the purchase of the book. It’s the equivalent to a straight-to-video B movie.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Brenna

    Aside from his penchant for obnoxiously-oversized books, Art Spiegelman demands shelf space in any comics aficionado's abode. With Breakdowns: Portrait of the Artist as a Young %@&*!, the reader is actually presented with a fusion of two separate books - his infamous $8.95 foray into underground comix, 1977's Breakdowns (which features the appropriately-sized "Hell Planet" story seen by most readers in Maus, which is itself a vastly extended version of the three-page 1972 "Maus" story as it Aside from his penchant for obnoxiously-oversized books, Art Spiegelman demands shelf space in any comics aficionado's abode. With Breakdowns: Portrait of the Artist as a Young %@&*!, the reader is actually presented with a fusion of two separate books - his infamous $8.95 foray into underground comix, 1977's Breakdowns (which features the appropriately-sized "Hell Planet" story seen by most readers in Maus, which is itself a vastly extended version of the three-page 1972 "Maus" story as it reappears in Breakdowns), as well as the Portrait (sidling up alongside the glossy covers of Breakdowns in the form of memoirs, diversions, and addendum to the observations inked in the companion, Breakdowns). While it is Portrait which has gained the most attention of recent critics (due, undoubtedly, to its fresher, original content), the republication of Breakdowns is an event unto itself: The first few thousand copies were ruined due to sloppy printing practices, and the ones which followed were compacted in size, rendering the artwork almost as if it were a vodun shrunken head. The pieces work together, with the former focusing on the studies of the latter from time to time, although they are more contrasting than similar. Portrait is highly linear, with a comprehensive view on the youthful Spiegelman and his tenuous step into adulthood. Breakdowns, released shortly after the artist's nervous collapse in the 1970s, features much more esoteric work, an art-based release with special attention given to the experimentation of the form. Clearly, one expects less of a "story"-of-sorts from it... although it is not altogether devoid of cohesive narrative. There remains a special avant garde element rarely pursued in this modern age of comics. There can be no "dirty nostalgia" which can presently recreate those earlier days of underground comix. Now, whatever happened to Jay Lynch?

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jenny

    Every time I read something by Spiegelman, I end up getting addicted. Just like with the other three works I've read by him, I started this in bed and ended up staying awake just to finish it. It's not as compelling as Maus or In the Shadow of No Towers, but it's interesting and enjoyable and fun to read. It's very meta, which I like, with a lot of self-referentiality. Spiegelman created/wrote the introduction and the afterword to this new edition of Breakdowns, which was already a compilation Every time I read something by Spiegelman, I end up getting addicted. Just like with the other three works I've read by him, I started this in bed and ended up staying awake just to finish it. It's not as compelling as Maus or In the Shadow of No Towers, but it's interesting and enjoyable and fun to read. It's very meta, which I like, with a lot of self-referentiality. Spiegelman created/wrote the introduction and the afterword to this new edition of Breakdowns, which was already a compilation of work that he put together himself after Maus. There are layers here, just like his experimental comix, which layer panel upon panel to make daring statements about art and life. Spiegelman is a genius, and although his artwork isn't the best, as he says himself, his mind certainly is. I wouldn't read this book unless you're already a fan of Spiegelman, whether of his early work or of Maus in particular. He got away from the style he used in the original Breakdowns, which is evident in his introduction, and which he states explicitly in his afterword. If you don't like avante-garde comix from the 1960s/1970s, you won't like this. Or give it a try anyway--you might be happily surprised.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jacob

    Library copy. Well, I liked the autobiographical short stories and Spiegelman is great at changing up art styles after other famous cartoonists, but I just don't have a care for any of the experimental efforts he puts in his work. As far as I am concerned it's usually a waste of time to do any Warhol homages. While the book has an Adults Only tag on the cover I am not sure that's enough to keep this book out of younger reader's hands. I'm fine with nudity, but there were a couple instances of Library copy. Well, I liked the autobiographical short stories and Spiegelman is great at changing up art styles after other famous cartoonists, but I just don't have a care for any of the experimental efforts he puts in his work. As far as I am concerned it's usually a waste of time to do any Warhol homages. While the book has an Adults Only tag on the cover I am not sure that's enough to keep this book out of younger reader's hands. I'm fine with nudity, but there were a couple instances of hardcore pornographic imagery that was rather shocking. My wife happened to have randomly open a page and show it to me before I ever read that far into the story. Thank goodness, my kids didn't have any interest in having a peek at this book or else I'd have hid it away when I borrowed it. I'd hate to be a Librarian and have to deal with an upset parent about this adult book, but I'd be remiss if I didn't mention how lately so many of the comic books I pick up at the library--including this one--are recommended by library workers due to their "Recommended by..." bookmarks.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Martin Crim

    Rereading this book tonight after finding it on a forgotten shelf, I am reminded of how Art Spiegelman is an artist, creating art because he must, and the exact opposite of a hack. He created and is most famous for The Complete Maus, his memoir about his parents' lives surviving the Nazi Holocaust. I was familiar with him before that, for his amazingly soul-baring "Prisoner of the Hell Planet," about his mother's suicide. Now he lives in the shadow of his own success, and finds it hard to do Rereading this book tonight after finding it on a forgotten shelf, I am reminded of how Art Spiegelman is an artist, creating art because he must, and the exact opposite of a hack. He created and is most famous for The Complete Maus, his memoir about his parents' lives surviving the Nazi Holocaust. I was familiar with him before that, for his amazingly soul-baring "Prisoner of the Hell Planet," about his mother's suicide. Now he lives in the shadow of his own success, and finds it hard to do art. But he still struggles to do so, because he must. I like that. It's an ethic of the complete pouring out of the self, holding nothing back, because you must. It's like a more tortured version of Above Us Only Sky.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Julia Pineda

    I am a little bit biased when it comes to Spiegelman's works, as I have loved his work since high school. This book examines things from both an adult and young adult perspective, which I think is excellent. It merges vignettes and random stories throughout the beginning, and then goes on to explorative art and writing, including essays and orginal versions of Maus before he perfected them and had them published. As many people previous to be have commented, one of the most inetersting things in I am a little bit biased when it comes to Spiegelman's works, as I have loved his work since high school. This book examines things from both an adult and young adult perspective, which I think is excellent. It merges vignettes and random stories throughout the beginning, and then goes on to explorative art and writing, including essays and orginal versions of Maus before he perfected them and had them published. As many people previous to be have commented, one of the most inetersting things in this book is the extended version of his abridged comic featured in Maus, "Prisoner from Hell Planet." It is heartbreaking and disturbing, but honestly narrated and beautifully illustrated. Over all a great read-of course, be aware that there is some swearing here and there and inuendo. But again, it is catering to a public that deals with such issues daily. Again, great book.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Helen

    Breakdowns... is a collection of assorted autobiographical and experimental strips Spiegelman collected in the mid seventies, republished in 2004 with some updated content and a new afterword. The visual and narrative content are both a little all over the place, as you'd expect from a collection that collects some of the artist's early work before the creation of Maus. The autobiographical pieces are especially interesting, especially "Planet Hell" and the incidents that led to Spiegelman Breakdowns... is a collection of assorted autobiographical and experimental strips Spiegelman collected in the mid seventies, republished in 2004 with some updated content and a new afterword. The visual and narrative content are both a little all over the place, as you'd expect from a collection that collects some of the artist's early work before the creation of Maus. The autobiographical pieces are especially interesting, especially "Planet Hell" and the incidents that led to Spiegelman writing it. This is a very large book, the size of a child's picture book more than the size of a typical graphic novel, but don't let the colors or the size fool you, definitely not for kids. Just in case the title didn't already tip you off. Probably not the safest thing to bring to read at work either. A great read for anyone interested in comic art, graphic art, or Art Spiegelman.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Paul Schulzetenberg

    Art Spiegelman is one of the most powerful comic artists I know. This is a collection of an old comic that was almost published, then wasn't, then was again, along with an new comic that focuses on his childhood. That old comic was a collection of short pieces he had done up to that point, and they show Spiegelman's more raw, R. Crumb-esque nature. Breakdowns is interesting from an artistic point of view, and interesting as a document to trace Spiegelman's growth, but that's all it is. It doesn't Art Spiegelman is one of the most powerful comic artists I know. This is a collection of an old comic that was almost published, then wasn't, then was again, along with an new comic that focuses on his childhood. That old comic was a collection of short pieces he had done up to that point, and they show Spiegelman's more raw, R. Crumb-esque nature. Breakdowns is interesting from an artistic point of view, and interesting as a document to trace Spiegelman's growth, but that's all it is. It doesn't have pretentions to be anything more. The introductory retrospective really shows how much Spiegelman has evolved as an artist, particularly when thrown into such sharp contrast with his earlier, more adventuresome but less polished work. I wouldn't recommend this to anybody but comics fans, but for those of us who are, this book's a good one.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Ryan Hupp

    I know, I'm as surprised as you are that I'm 5-starring a collection of US comix-with-an-x featuring a story called "Ace Hole, Midget Detective," and yet here we are. I was familiar with Maus, and on reading it, immediately recognized the expressionist-styled "Prisoner on the Hell Planet" (with its unforgettably dumb final line; Spiegelman punctures it himself but Jesus, dude), but had never really dipped into Raw or the larger 60s comix scene, mostly out of an overriding dislike for R. Crumb and I know, I'm as surprised as you are that I'm 5-starring a collection of US comix-with-an-x featuring a story called "Ace Hole, Midget Detective," and yet here we are. I was familiar with Maus, and on reading it, immediately recognized the expressionist-styled "Prisoner on the Hell Planet" (with its unforgettably dumb final line; Spiegelman punctures it himself but Jesus, dude), but had never really dipped into Raw or the larger 60s comix scene, mostly out of an overriding dislike for R. Crumb and the blatant misogyny everyfuckingwhere in so much 60s counterculture. And sure, that's here (though nowhere near as ruinously as in Crumb), but there's also, crucially, Spiegelman's genuinely groundbreaking formal experimentation with panels and page structure. And Zip-a-Tone, in the "Moiré Melodies" one-pager. It's honestly breathtaking stuff.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Dean

    Having previously read Spiegelman's "Maus", I thought I knew what to expect. Man, was I wrong. "Breakdowns" is the definition of avante garde, plain and simple. The wild experimentation in his early work is very much like postmodernism in literature; he decided to take all the conventions and expectations and turn them on their heads. The result is an absolutely mind-blowing book that is so packed with detail that I'll probably need to read it a half dozen more times to figure it all out. But Having previously read Spiegelman's "Maus", I thought I knew what to expect. Man, was I wrong. "Breakdowns" is the definition of avante garde, plain and simple. The wild experimentation in his early work is very much like postmodernism in literature; he decided to take all the conventions and expectations and turn them on their heads. The result is an absolutely mind-blowing book that is so packed with detail that I'll probably need to read it a half dozen more times to figure it all out. But that's the great thing about experimental work like this; it makes you think instead of just laying it out for you.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Lars Guthrie

    Very dense and multilayered, this requires more commitment and effort from the reader than its size (big but thin) and format (comix) indicate. Spiegelman republishes his 1978 anthology (of work before "Raw" and obviously, "Maus") but surrounds it with contextualization--a comix introduction and an illustrated afterword--that extend its scope and make it more than an artifact of the hippie underground. At the same time that Spiegelman was deconstructing comic book/strip conventions, he was Very dense and multilayered, this requires more commitment and effort from the reader than its size (big but thin) and format (comix) indicate. Spiegelman republishes his 1978 anthology (of work before "Raw" and obviously, "Maus") but surrounds it with contextualization--a comix introduction and an illustrated afterword--that extend its scope and make it more than an artifact of the hippie underground. At the same time that Spiegelman was deconstructing comic book/strip conventions, he was constructing his own painful and humorous memoir. HIghly recommended.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Edwin Arnaudin

    Spiegelman had me at "hello" with "Maus," so I'd probably read what he has to say about glue. I shouldn't have been surprised with the oversized presentation, especially after "In The Shadow of No Towers." It's a rare treat to read something so bulky yet comfortable. As with his other experimental comix (that's the correct terminology, right? I'm not trying to be pretentious), I don't always get what he's trying to say in this collection, but I appreciate it all and when something connects, it's Spiegelman had me at "hello" with "Maus," so I'd probably read what he has to say about glue. I shouldn't have been surprised with the oversized presentation, especially after "In The Shadow of No Towers." It's a rare treat to read something so bulky yet comfortable. As with his other experimental comix (that's the correct terminology, right? I'm not trying to be pretentious), I don't always get what he's trying to say in this collection, but I appreciate it all and when something connects, it's magical.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Andy

    This book has a very narrrow appeal and I only picked it up because I had finished Maus I and II and was curious as to other works by Art Spiegelman. The fact is, while a genius, he's not very prolific. The work in this book, while certainly innovative, was done in the late 1960s/early 1970s and has this underground, Robert Crumb appeal. Unless you're really into comics as an art form, I'd just skip ahead to the afterward by Spiegleman, which offers good insght into his career and creative This book has a very narrrow appeal and I only picked it up because I had finished Maus I and II and was curious as to other works by Art Spiegelman. The fact is, while a genius, he's not very prolific. The work in this book, while certainly innovative, was done in the late 1960s/early 1970s and has this underground, Robert Crumb appeal. Unless you're really into comics as an art form, I'd just skip ahead to the afterward by Spiegleman, which offers good insght into his career and creative process.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Peacegal

    Damn, this book is big. On the upside, it makes it easier on my increasingly-poor eyes to read the comics. On the downside, I look like an idiot toting it around. The word that came to mind while viewing this book was “motley.” From the original three-page strip that inspired Spiegelman’s haunting Maus to a bunch of avant-garde cartoons, Breakdown amasses the early work of this acclaimed artist. While the technical skill was superb, some of the rambling, plotless comics were so nonsensical that Damn, this book is big. On the upside, it makes it easier on my increasingly-poor eyes to read the comics. On the downside, I look like an idiot toting it around. The word that came to mind while viewing this book was “motley.” From the original three-page strip that inspired Spiegelman’s haunting Maus to a bunch of avant-garde cartoons, Breakdown amasses the early work of this acclaimed artist. While the technical skill was superb, some of the rambling, plotless comics were so nonsensical that they left me cold.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Thomas Hayes

    As the title states it really is a portrait not a book. You don't expect a visual artist to capture their whole spectrum of work in a single portrait do you? You are looking for a moment of reflection. If you came to it looking for another complete story like Maus you will be disappointed. If you came to this because you are interested in his other work and are looking for insight into his journey as an artist you will enjoy it immensely. Definitely not for children, there are many wonderful As the title states it really is a portrait not a book. You don't expect a visual artist to capture their whole spectrum of work in a single portrait do you? You are looking for a moment of reflection. If you came to it looking for another complete story like Maus you will be disappointed. If you came to this because you are interested in his other work and are looking for insight into his journey as an artist you will enjoy it immensely. Definitely not for children, there are many wonderful vignettes of shared human experiences and at least one will resonate with you I am sure.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Barry

    Pretty good. Although it becomes a little too dense, abstract and obscure at some points, much of BREAKDOWNS is a great read. Just don't pick it up if you want a standard comic; read this if you want something a little different. Also, because of the abstract nature of some of the chapters, I definitely recommend reading BREAKDOWNS after Scott McCloud's UNDERSTANDING COMICS (which I recommend reading anyway). Although Spiegelman explicates these sections in his Afterward, some deeper context is Pretty good. Although it becomes a little too dense, abstract and obscure at some points, much of BREAKDOWNS is a great read. Just don't pick it up if you want a standard comic; read this if you want something a little different. Also, because of the abstract nature of some of the chapters, I definitely recommend reading BREAKDOWNS after Scott McCloud's UNDERSTANDING COMICS (which I recommend reading anyway). Although Spiegelman explicates these sections in his Afterward, some deeper context is definitely useful.

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